A group led by Todd Boehly has been chosen as the preferred bidder for European soccer giant Chelsea, an indication that despite a late bid from one of the U.K.’s richest men, the high-profile auction may be nearing an end.
Boehly’s group, which includes Clearlake Capital and Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, has been given about a week to reach a formal agreement to buy the English Premier League team, according to someone familiar with the decision. If a deal is not reached, the three remaining bidders will come back into the conversation.
It is common at this stage for the preferred bidder to enter into an exclusivity agreement. That has not happened with Boehly, the person said. Boehly’s group also includes Guggenheim CEO Mark Walter, a partner of Boehly’s in the Los Angeles Dodgers and LA Lakers.
Boehly didn’t immediately return a text message seeking comment. A representative for the Raine Group, which is handling the sale, declined to comment. A Chelsea spokesman declined to comment.
The preferred status come after the sale appeared to grow more complicated in the past few days. Earlier this week bidders were asked to contribute another $627 million (£500 million) on top of their original offers toward a charitable trust, according to someone familiar with the talks. Then Jim Ratcliffe, chairman and CEO of Ineos, submitted a late $3.14 billion (£2.5 billion) offer. Ratcliffe is worth $10.6 billion, according to Bloomberg, making him the richest person leading a bid in the Chelsea sale.
Boehly is already a prominent investor across sports. His franchise holdings include stakes in MLB’s Los Angeles Dodgers and the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. His investment firm Eldridge has stakes in DraftKings and Cloud9. Boehly recently helped take ticket platform Vivid Seats public in a $2 billion deal.
The Wall Street Journal was first to report Boehly’s advancement.
In addition to Ratcliffe and the Boehly bid, the other two finalists were a group led by Boston Celtics owner Steve Pagliuca and a group led by Josh Harris and David Blitzer, the owners of the Philadelphia 76ers and New Jersey Devils.
Chelsea could be the most expensive sports franchise ever sold. The current record is the $3.3 billion that Joe Tsai paid for the Brooklyn Nets and the rights to operate the Barclays Center in a deal completed in 2019. Sportico previously valued Chelsea at $3.35 billion, making it the fourth most valuable team in England behind Manchester United ($4.65 billion), Liverpool ($4.14 billion) and Manchester City ($4 billion).
(This article has been updated to include more details on Boehly’s group in the second and third paragraphs.)